Charges dropped against suspect in fatal beating of transgender NY woman

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NEW YORK  — Prosecutors on Tuesday dropped charges against a 20-year-old man accused of fatally beating a transgender woman in Harlem, citing the “uniquely complex” circumstances surrounding the case.

Paris Wilson, 20, was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment in the brutal beating of Islan Nettles, 21, who later died from her injuries.

Although prosecutors assured Judge Steven Statsinger that they’re “aggressively” investigating the crime as a homicide, the government conceded that the misdemeanor charges against Wilson must be dismissed because the 90-day speedy trial deadline has expired.  

“This case has turned out to be uniquely complex,” said Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Viorst. “The defendant, Paris Wilson, was stopped several blocks from the scene just minutes after the incident and identified as the perpetrator. However, several days after the incident, a second individual came forward to the police and [admitted to]…the crime. We’re not prepared to go to the grand jury on this case. However, our investigation remains active.”

But Viorst pointed out that there is no statutory speedy trial deadline for homicide. “Therefore, should our investigation ultimately result in indictment of Mr. Wilson or someone else for homicide, the case would be promptly restored to the [court] calendar and we’ll move forward notwithstanding the case for dismissal,” he said.

Nettles was attacked near 148th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard in Harlem – just steps away from Police Service Area 6 – shortly after midnight on Aug. 17th. According to court documents, Nettles was found “unconscious on the ground with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.”

Witnesses told police and the press that Nettles was pummeled in the head after a male acquaintance realized that she was transgender. While it’s still unclear whether Nettles was beaten by one person or a group of men, witnesses reported hearing homophobic slurs uttered against Nettles during the attack. She was taken off life support about a week later after doctors declared her to be brain dead.

Wilson’s attorney, Xavier Donaldson, told reporters after the hearing that “My client never put a finger, a hair, or a hand on Ms. Nettles.”

The case dismissal occurred just a day before the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is held on Nov. 20th every year to bring attention to violence against transgender individuals.

Shortly after the charges were dropped, the New York City Anti-Violence Project publicly called for a meeting with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to discuss the latest development in the Nettles case.

“AVP stands with transgender women of color, our allies, community members and community leaders in saying we will not be silent about the violence faced by transgender women and transgender women of color in our city,” according to the statement.

The non-profit organization, which provides free and confidential assistance to LGBT victims of violence, noted that at least 12 transgender women have been killed in the U.S. so far this year.

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